National Lighting Bureau Urges America’s Lighting Community To “Set The Record Straight”

Type:  News  

Silver Spring, MD – “People are not being given good information about lighting.” So says National Lighting Bureau Executive Director John P. Bachner, who decries what he called “the particularly poor reporting about the ongoing elimination of 100-, 75-, 60-, and 40-Watt incandescent lamps from the national inventory. In fact, incandescent lighting is not being eliminated or outlawed. What is being eliminated are the least efficient, commonly used versions for which far more efficient and cost-effective alternatives are available, including incandescent alternatives. As long as people pick the right bulb for the result they want, in terms of lighting quality and dimmability, for example, the alternatives available right now can do everything positive that incandescents do while costing much less, consuming far less energy, and contributing far less to our greenhouse-gas and air-borne mercury problems.”

Focusing on the cost issue, Mr. Bachner said, “To tell people that a 75-Watt incandescent lamp is less expensive than a CFL [compact fluorescent lamp] is irresponsible, given that the statement is true only if you use the incandescent lamp for something like a paperweight. People need to know not the cost of buying one type of lamp or another, but rather the cost of owning and using one type lamp or another. Once people have that knowledge, they quickly realize that the incandescent lamps they grew up with are just about the most expensive there are, not the least expensive.”
Mr. Bachner noted that the National Electrical Manufacturers Association – NEMA, a sponsor and founder of the National Lighting Bureau – has led the charge by providing reliable consumer information in a booklet titled Lighting Options for Your Home,available free of charge on the Bureau website ( The table below can also be of value. Developed by the Bureau, it compares the ten-year cost of relying on 75-Watt incandescent lighting to the cost of owning three alternatives: a 53-Watt high-efficiency (halogen-filled) incandescent lamp, a 13-Watt compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), and a 17-Watt light-emitting diode (LED) lamp. As can be seen, the ten-year cost of owning and using a 75-Watt incandescent lamp is more than five times the cost of owning a CFL that produces about the same amount and quality of light.
“The cost of ownership doesn't consider a number of other costs, such as the additional carbon dioxide and mercury that's put into the air by coal-fired power plants and by the planes, trains, ships, and trucks used to transport lamps from the factory to a distribution center, then to a warehouse, and then to a store. That’s ten times as many trips for conventional incandescents compared to CFLs; 25 as many trips for conventional incandescents vs. LEDs. There’s also all the extra packaging that has to be manufactured, and all the packaging and spent lamps that wind up in a landfill. If people were simply given the facts, they’d realize that all this fuss about losing incandescent lamps is a tempest in a teapot, based on misinformation. When people stop using conventional incandescent lamps, they lose nothing, they save money, and they’re gentler on the environment we all have to share.”
Mr. Bachner also commented that “many of the same media people who have nothing to say about the significant environmental problems that conventional incandescent lamps cause seem to be extraordinarily concerned about the miniscule amount of mercury in CFLs, as though it were really something for the nation to worry about. Fact: The amount of mercury in a typical CFL is not enough to coat the head of a pin. Fact: The typical swordfish contains 20 times more mercury than a typical CFL. Fact: When a CFL is broken, most of its mercury adheres to the glass and does not disperse into the air. Fact: CFL recycling centers are becoming commonplace. Fact: Coal-fired electricity-generating plants comprise the nation’s most significant source of air-borne mercury.”
Focusing on the link between airborne mercury and coal-fired generation of electricity, Mr. Bachner said that “characterizing continued reliance on inefficient incandescent lamps as ‘freedom of choice’ is unacceptable. If my neighbor decides to hoard 100-Watt incandescent lamps and keep using them, my neighbor causes unnecessary generation of electricity. The unnecessary generation of electricity forces me to inhale mercury that would otherwise not be there. What happens to my freedom of choice? What happens to my family’s freedom of choice? It’s like being forced to inhale second-hand cigarette smoke simply because some people equate freedom of choice with doing what they prefer to do even if it harms others.”
Mr. Bachner urged everyone in “America’s lighting community to help set the record straight. Speak up. Share your knowledge. Educate people. The new lighting-efficiency targets require people to give up nothing in terms of lighting quality, convenience, and versatility. The only thing they really require people to do is decide about the kind of lamp they want to use and how much money they want to save. That’s not a bad thing.”
The National Lighting Bureau is an independent, not-for-profit, lighting information source established in 1976. The Bureau is sponsored by professional societies, trade associations, manufacturers, and agencies of the U.S. government, including, among others:
  • enLIGHTen America;
  • GE Lighting;
  • Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES);
  • Imperial Lighting Maintenance Company;
  • interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO);
  • Lighting Alternatives, Inc.;
  • Lighting Controls Association;
  • Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.;
  • Magnaray;
  • National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA);
  • National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA);
  • Philips Lighting; and
  • U.S. General Services Administration.

For more information about the Bureau, visit the Bureau’s website ( or contact Bureau staff at or 301/587-9572.


Lamp-Ownership Costs per Ten Years



75-Watt Incand. 
53-Watt Incand.

13-Watt CFL

17-Watt LED
Number of Lamps Used
Assumed Cost per Lamp
Lamp Cost/Ten Years
Hours Operated per Year
Total kWh/10 Yrs
Cost per kWh
Energy Cost
Ownership Costs